OPINION: THINKPIECE - Justice can be done by paying the living wage

Aston-Mansfield is an institutional member of London Citizens, and has worked with fellow members to change conditions for communities in East London.

One of our major campaigns over recent years has been to raise the living wage for low-paid workers. Many families in East London have to maintain several jobs in order to sustain their families because they are paid such a low wage - often on or just above the minimum wage. Aston-Mansfield took the view that we could not campaign to ask others in the public and private sectors to pay their staff a living wage if we were not prepared to do so ourselves. Other member organisations have taken the same view.

Three years ago, when we looked at what we were paying cleaners, we realised that we were only paying them just over £5 per hour. While this reflected the market rate, it was not a living wage. The cost of introducing the living wage at once was beyond our budget. We therefore made the decision to increase the wages of the lowest paid over a period of three to four years to bring them in line with the living wage.

This decision was made despite having to make severe financial cutbacks because of a downturn in the stock market and the declining value of our investments.

We are currently paying cleaners our minimum rate of £6.42 per hour.

This is still not a living wage as defined by research,which is £6.70 per hour at the end of 2003. But for us it meant an above-inflation settlement of 7 per cent for our lowest paid staff.

A living wage will not give wealth or luxury but it will give justice.

Voluntary and community organisations which support justice and work for the eradication of poverty need to consider their own salary policy for the lowest-paid staff in their own organisations. Paul Regan is chief executive of Aston-Mansfield

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